A few weeks ago I posted up a nasty little perl script called the Kindliser, which turns a plain-text markup into ebook-ready HTML. Not such a big deal – it’s just a web-page with links – except that it also included support for tracking true/false values, which is impossible.
It does it by playing through every possible game the player might have, and writing them all out separately… which turned my first example game Flaws from a 40Kb sourcefile with 40 paragraphs of so and 4 true/false flags into a 600Kb HTML.
The other day I thought; I wonder how far I can push this thing?
So I started writing a murder-mystery. With clues, and evidence, collected up in a notebook. And a branching order of investigation. It’s 163kB of source – 200 paragraphs, and 70 true/false variables. And I ran it…
…and my computer made a very funny noise indeed…
…and the battery meter went from “4:20” to “23mins”…
…and out came a 40Mb HTML file containing 65,000 paragraphs.
The game is called A Job For Life, the interview mechanic is a streamlined, improved version of how I think LA Noire should have been, and it’s got some exploration and a even an action set-piece. It’s a purely choice-based game, with no (visible) stats or randomness or dice-rolls.
If it was published as a book, it would be the height of a house.
And I was assuming that was that, and the only way I could distribute it was to send people memory sticks like I was in MI5, when I discovered that ebook compiler software uses compression. In fact, it has a compression switch designed for dictionaries and encyclopaedias. It has a quite good compression, which got the file down to a slim-line 4Mb. Which the Kindle itself can handle, without any lag or issues. (The game’s HTML file is so big that it crashes most browsers, but not the Kindle).
In fact, the reader would never know, until they try to use the “go to” feature which tells you how many pages there are.
The game’s in testing at the moment, a process which is made worse by the way trying to compile the game takes quite a long time, as it has to play out every possible path through the text. But I hope to release it soon: with an online demo of the first chapter, and the rest available from Amazon. Wifi recommended.